War veterans, a grumpy old man, and a Samurai sword swish you through this entertaining bit of short pulp fiction from Thomas Pluck. Reeves is a war veteran and ex-UFC fighter in search of a role. Drawn, reluctantly, to brawls in his arse-end-of-nowhere town, he searches for that meaning while he works in Butch’s gun store – and gets his ears eaten raw by the old man’s brutal words. The old fella considers Reeves useless: he can’t make a decision; he’s always getting into stupid fights, and he has a ridiculous beef with the sheriff which goes up a notch when he starts dating the diner waitress the lawman fancies. Why doesn’t he get back into UFC and do something with his life? With the arrival of a mysterious Japanese businessman, whose aspiration in buying the gun store fails to hide his desire for a samurai sword Butch has had since the Second World War, Reeves finds his role.

Pluck’s Blade of Dishonor – The War Comes Home, the first in a three-part saga, is a classy bit of pulp. The hero Reeves can fight, and likes to fight, but he does it either for money in UFC bouts, or to protect his pals. His love interest, Tara, is as up for adventure as he, and pulls him up for his shortcomings, and Butch – his grandad – doesn’t give him an inch, pulling him up for every stupid decision he ever, and continues, to make. There’s a stretch when you fear the old man is a little one-note, but the way he talks about the sword and what it means for Reeves to protect it digs into the character’s depths. 

The whole thing ends with some great action involving Japanese ninjas and the arsehole sheriff which definitely made me gun for the second and third in the series.

Pluck is a top writer. His Denny the Dent stories highlighted me to his work – proof of Pluck’s claim to be a “writer of unflinching fiction with heart.” His Garbage Man in Beat to a Pulp’s Superhero anthology is a beautiful piece of work.

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